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Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Ad Targeting

Does Facebook advertising really work?

The short answer – yes.

The more accurate answer – when you know what you're doing.

When it comes to any marketing strategy, knowing what you're doing begins with knowing your ideal customer. So, before you ever create an add, make sure you've familiarized yourself with the following characteristics as related to your ideal customer:

  • Likes/dislikes
  • Desires
  • Interests
  • Concerns
  • Behaviors

Once you've done this, and only after, are you ready to begin experimenting with Facebook's advertising platform! But, before we get into that, let's review why Facebook has single-handedly changed the game.

Why Facebook Ad Targeting Is Powerful


Businesses generally advertise for a couple of reasons:

1. They are a new business with no leads trying to generate sales.

2. They want more QUALIFIED traffic than they currently have.

Until fairly recently, business owners were regulated to casting a wide advertising net with television, magazines and print media. Such methods typically require HUGE budgets, a large amount of risk and an inability to determine overall effectiveness.

Eventually, Google ushered in the era of PPC (pay-per-click) advertisements. But even Google Adwords are limited in what they can do. More than any other paid media platform, Facebook has revolutionized the way marketers can distribute content.

According to Facebook, the average accuracy reach for narrowly targeted online campaigns is 38 percent. Conversely, the social medium boasts an astounding 89 percent accuracy rating. Translation: With Facebook you're wasting less advertising dollars on the wrong people.

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The Reason Most Campaigns Fail

Online advertising campaigns have historically failed for one reason: UNSPECIFIC TARGETING.

Assuming the audiences being targeted were willing and able to buy. But, thanks to Facebook's "creep-tastic" database of demographic and psychographic user-information, you can now target your ads with a comical degree of specificity: Ex: American girls ages 12 to 15 who like Justin Bieber, are into knitting, AND own an iPhone.

What product would someone be selling to that demographic? I have no idea! But just the fact that someone could is mind-boggling. So, what can your business do with ad targeting?

1. How to Target Ads

Ex. You own a car wash.

Sales routinely slow down during winter months - it's cold, no one wants to get wet while washing their car!

Through Facebook, you can start an advertising campaign to pick up the slack! Using the program's campaign manager you can target 200,000 individuals ages 30 to 60, who live within 20 miles of your car wash, and make more than $50,000 a year.

You might even decide to target audience members who have shown signs of being soccer moms with messy cars (using Facebook's data partners and behavior section). For the most part, the larger your audience reach, the more expensive your campaign will be. FYI: No one knows the exact algorithm Facebook uses to determine pricing.

The good news? Smaller segments with customized creative advertisements deliver better results. For our car wash, a compelling offer might be an "unlimited wash special" for the month of December; plus a chance to win autographed NBA gear). It all depends on your market. The more engagement you get, the less you pay per click!

2. The 8 Categories

Facebook's ad manager consists of 8 overarching categories. Within each category are several subcategories that can be used for hyper-specific targeting. The best way to understand how they work? Login and play around:

  1. Custom Audiences (these are groups you create based upon your email lists, phone numbers, app users, or website retargeting)
  2. Location (DMA, zip code, city, county, state, or country)
  3. Age & Gender
  4. Demographics (income, job title, employer name, language, relationship status, education, financial, home ownership, parental status, etc.)
  5. Interests (everything from brand pages to celebrities and almost any other topic you can think of)
  6. Behaviors (charitable activities, online shopping habits, car shopping, financial spending, mobile devices, travel habits, etc.)
  7. More Categories (expats of specific countries and their friend/family)
  8. Connections (people connected to your page, app, or event)

3. Turbo-Charging Campaigns

Want to take your ad targeting to the next level?

Try Facebook's new(ish) "Flex And-OR Exclusion" targeting. With the new feature you can now choose to include prospects who match more than one interest, behavior, or demographic at a time.

Basically, it allows greater customization of INCLUDING and EXCLUDING overlapping parameters. Previously, there were no “AND” options. Whenever you would enter a new characteristic, the program would target everyone who fit any of those qualifications.

Now, you could potentially target:

  • Men in the United States
  • Between the ages of 30-60
  • Who must use either an iPhone 6 OR an iPhone 6 Plus
  • Who must also be interested in golf.
  • Who meet ALL of the above requirements, but have no children.

In the above example, anyone who met all of the above characteristics BUT had children would be excluded. As you can see, the flex option allows even greater specificity. Which, as we've shown, leads to better results!

Try Facebook Ad Targeting

Like anything else, online marketing involves a fair amount of trail and error. However, we at Lean Labs definitely think those errors should be minimized as much as possible.

If you've already clarified your marketing goals, identified your buyer personas, and created matching content funnels, leveraging ad targeting is a smart next step. A caveat: Facebook adds (and removes) new targeting options ALL the time! The company is constantly experimenting.

Learning how to use the platform from simply reading a blog article isn't advised. Take a page from Facebook and treat your campaigns as mini-experiments.

  • Start small.
  • Track results.
  • Adjust accordingly.
  • Watch traffic roll-in!

Good luck, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!

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Written by Ashley Gwilliam / February 23, 2017

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam